Following the ice storm that hit the east coast in March I had the distinct pleasure of flying from Philadelphia International Airport to Fort Myers, Florida. As I left my home, the thermometer registered 26.7 degrees; a flurry of activity was seen as we approached the terminal. Crowds of people were clustered everywhere; the lines seemed endless. Inside, airport security instructed travelers; outside, one line formed for skycaps. The only decision was which line would move faster. I slipped into the inside line, wondering how long this would take; my husband remained outside. Security guards were positioned to answer questions since many individuals were left from the day before. As I shuffled my belongings along the floor conversations arose. Perhaps, we were looking to make the time go faster or maybe misery just loved company – it was hard to tell. Within minutes we were telling each other our life stories. Soon my husband called saying his line was moving, and I should join him. I left the warmth and comfort of inside to enter the freezing cold hoping his perception of the situation was correct.
The conversation in his line was much the same. Many talked of wanting to leave town and wondering how long they could tolerate the cold. Some ran in and out of the terminal; others jumped up and down, shivering. Everyone was afraid of losing his spot. Time passed – we continued to stand, chilled to the bone.
Suddenly, hotel shuttles dropped people curbside; some tried to muscle their way in but were soon discouraged. A group even disembarked with luggage and golf clubs! We watched in horror! The women darted for the terminal while the men demanded the skycap’s attention. Handing their boarding passes, they proceeded to check-in. I could not help myself. I walked up behind them asking if they knew there was a line. No answer. I shifted my position, saying can’t you see us waiting here? The man with the Stetson hat remarked, our flight is in 20 minutes. I responded, so is mine! He turned and faced me, saying sarcastically, ours is first class. Not to be deterred I answered, so is mine! I gestured to the line saying, we’re waiting, too. With that he turned his back, slipped the skycap $50.00, and continued to finish his ticketing pretending I wasn’t even there!
His carry-on bag was at my feet, and I jotted his name and Juniper, Florida address on a slip of paper. At the time I thought, he deserved a letter! Then I realized – this, patient, good-natured group had just been slapped. Today, 5 people considered themselves better than all of us – similar to those aristocrats who sailed the Titanic long ago, but, this I believe, in the end it doesn’t matter how many golf clubs you own or what hat you wear. To me, a person’s character is dependent upon how well he treats his fellow man; with this thought I willingly took my place back in line with my comrades knowing someday these 5 would try to recapture the pieces of their lost character that were strewn under my feet on that Philadelphia sidewalk on March 16th.
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